Thursday, May 24, 2012

Influencing Change: Vital Behaviors


It's overwhelming to think of how Arlington has gotten to where we are.  I have written several posts on the things we have done that have led to many successes.   It's even more overwhelming to think of where we are going and how to get there. Where do we begin?

My question of where to begin is not a rhetorical question.  I, along with about 30 teachers, a principal, 2 counselors, and several other support staff members will be doing just that this fall.  The Johnson Crossing Academic Center will open for the first time in August and greet over 700 students whether we are ready or not.


In the book, "Influencer: The Power to Change Anything," the authors identify what they call "vital behaviors" (with this in mind, I am not an expert in the change process.  This post is more an exploration of the ideas of this book than a statement). The idea of vital behaviors is that a few behaviors make significant changes.  People who lead change have very specific behaviors in mind that need to be changed.  Instead of spouting generalities of educational jargon such as "best practices" or a "safe environment" specifics are needed. Behaviors are not to be confused with outcomes.

Successful Teachers-Vital Behaviors
The authors found 2 behaviors in teachers that have successful students.

1. Top performing teachers reward positive performance and bottom performing teachers become easily discouraged.

2. Top performing teachers quickly transition from teaching to questioning.  This leads to reteaching when a topic is not understood.

Influencing Change Through Vital Behaviors
To create the biggest change, you must find the behaviors that lead to the greatest change.  It's interesting that these are not unbelievable, overwhelming tasks that would be impossible for the average person to do.  Yet breaking it down to it's smallest component is not always easy when you are looking a big problems from close up.



Where to begin?
What we must do (the generalities): Create a caring environment, have high expectations, develop a collaborative learning environment, value 5th and 6th grade students, and on and on and on.

My starting point: I'm avoiding using "vital behaviors" because vital behaviors are research based.  I'm going a little bit on gut, a little on experience, and a little on research.  So I am just calling this my "starting point" behaviors.

1. Open dialogue - begin by meeting, interviewing, and getting to know each teacher and staff member.   Learn from them and share my beliefs.
2. Model caring behaviors - speak positively of students and parents every chance I get.
3. Speak of high expectations.

These are not unbelievable, overwhelming tasks to complete.  These are my 3 simple behaviors that I can do when facing a daunting challenge.

Where would you begin?
If you could start your own school, what vital behaviors do you find most important to the development of the kind of school you would want to send your child?  So literally, where to begin?  Where would you begin?

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